In fact, advanced applications like this one may point to bold new directions for the residential construction industry. Rehau recently announced the official groundbreaking for the Rehau Montana ecosmart house in Bozeman.
Sponsored by Rehau and led by the Creative Research Lab (CRLab) at Montana State University (MSU), the residential modeling and construction project aims to exhibit the possibilities of maximized energy efficiency and occupant comfort through a combination of the latest sustainable building products and systems of all sizes.
Among them is Rehau’s Ecoair system, which takes advantage of consistently moderate ground temperatures to precondition incoming fresh air, thus improving indoor air ventilation while reducing heating and cooling costs. Prior to entering the indoor ventilation system, fresh air is prewarmed with ground heat 5-7 feet below the Earth’s surface in the winter, and precooled with cooler ground temperatures in the summer.
In addition to directly reducing the energy required to heat or cool incoming fresh air, the system can be designed to lower relative humidity during periods of cooling, and eliminate defrost cycles in heat recovery ventilators (HRV), ensuring a continuous supply of fresh ventilation air.
Rehau pipes running throughout the house and grounds will capture and efficiently distribute renewable energy, while Rehau window and curtain wall profiles will minimize energy lost through the home’s large expanses of glass. Among the systems the company will supply are ground-air heat exchange, geothermal ground-loop heat exchange, solar thermal, radiant heating and cooling, fire protection, snow and ice melting, vinyl window and door designs, and hybrid curtain wall technology. In addition, space-saving and easily operated Rehau tambour doors will contribute to the disability-oriented design of cabinets throughout the home.
“We began this residential design and planning project as both an ongoing, real-world learning and teaching tool for our students, and as a source of valuable data for those in the construction industry looking for the best ways to meet the latest LEED, NAHB, and IBEC certification standards,” said Terry Beaubois, director of the CRLab at MSU.
“After a year of planning and design, it is so exciting for all involved to see the project now moving into the construction phase,” Beaubois said at the groundbreaking.
The house will feature a number of sustainable building technologies, including geothermal ground loop heat exchange; ground-air heat exchange; radiant heating and cooling; solar thermal energy for hot water and photovoltaic (PV) for electricity; vinyl window and door designs, including a hybrid curtain wall system; structural insulated panels; and insulating concrete forms.
It will also include disability-oriented design features such as an elevator and tambour cabinet doors, as well as elements to address such human sustainability considerations as telemedicine and aging-in-place.
Dr. Saylor said the project offers a unique opportunity for building system testing and evaluation in order to determine optimal system selection and integration. To achieve this, the house will include a number of redundant systems, including those for cooling and fresh air intake, which can be examined for both independent and integrated performance. Research will focus not only on system optimization, but also foster analysis on such aspects as resale value, insurance premiums, and other elements of a home’s worth based on the incorporation of these systems.
System control is being provided by Climate Automation Systems, the software company that developed and now markets the ENV system. Using intelligent climate-control technology, ENV manages all of the mechanical systems in a home or commercial building, balancing the use of both forced-air and radiant systems with the goal of optimizing the mechanical plant based on what the company describes as the rules of a sustainable environment: reduce energy consumption, increase occupant comfort, and reduce CO2 emissions.
AAON equipment will operate the geothermal heating and cooling systems of the ecosmart house. The company engineers, manufactures, markets, and sells air conditioning and heating equipment consisting of standard, semi-custom and custom rooftop units, chillers, boilers, air-handling units, makeup air units, heat recovery units, condensing units, and coils.
“Being involved in the … ecosmart house is especially rewarding as Montana is my home state, and I received my undergraduate degree from MSU,” Saylor said. “It’s exciting to see the university’s exceptional resources highlighted through this project, as well as to be collaborating as an active part of the process.”
Once constructed, the house will be owned and occupied by an alumnus of the MSU School of Architecture. Research and data collection will continue through occupancy to monitor everyday system functionality, and the CRLab will administer a post-occupancy evaluation and make real-time data results available for review on the project’s website.
For more information, visit www.montanaecosmart.com or www.na.rehau.com.